for some individual sample countries, we gathered together the best statistics we could find to trace (a) the consumption or output per capita of food, energy commodities, nonfuel minerals, and forest products; (b) the employment-output ratio; (c) the relative price trends; (d) the net import trends. None of these by itself tells as much about the tendency toward or away from scarcity as do all of them taken together. For example, increasing per capita consumption, decreasing employment-output ratio, declining relative price trends of resource commodities to prices generally, and a falling trend of net imports would indicate an easing of scarcity and an increasing plenty of resources.
For the United States, historical data do not point to increasing scarcity in any general sense. Indications as to future technology and supply possibilities, when matched against projected demands to the year 2000, also do not indicate a general tendency toward greater scarcity. There will, indeed, be supply problems for particular resources at particular times and places; but technological and economic progress, building upon an ample and diversified resource and industrial base, gives assurance that supply problems can be met.
For the more developed countries, particularly in western Europe, where the data are reasonably good, the trend is not unlike that for the United States.
For the underdeveloped countries of the world available evidence is far from conclusive, but it does warn against easy generalizations that these countries are either about to run out of raw materials or are going to experience an economic take-off right away because of plentiful supplies of food, energy, and raw materials. The picture is mixed: quite favorable for energy commodities, less so for food. For some less developed but heavily populated countries the race between food and people apparently will be a close one. As with the United States, only more dramatically, much will depend on the rate at which technological advances can be broadly applied and on the ability to keep open the channels of world trade (1).
From this overview we turned to the difficult exercise of projecting resource demands by major world regions. Based on the most recent high population projections of the United Nations (3.295 billion in 1965 projected to 4.551 billion in 1980 and 6.994 billion in 2000), our rough estimates of the materials which would be consumed in the year 2000 were made under each of the following assumptions:
1. The trends in resource consumption during the past decade continue for the next 35 years in the major regions of the world.
2. The average per capita level of consumption for the world as a whole in the year 2000 is at the level attained in the United States in 1965.
3. The average per capita level of consumption in the world in 2000 reaches the level attained by western Europe in 1965.